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Five hybrid solar lighting systems are already in place and another 20 are scheduled to be installed, ORNL says.
The technology collects sunlight and pipes it into buildings using bundles of small optical fibers, resulting in potentially significant energy savings in lighting and maintenance costs.
The system can save about 6,000 kilowatt hours per year in lighting and another 2,000 in reduced cooling needs for a total of 8,000 kilowatt hours annually, according to estimates by Sunlight Direct, a company that licensed the technology from ORNL.
Over 10 years, for parts of the country where the utility rates are 10 cents per kilowatt hour, that can result in savings up to $8,000 per hybrid solar lighting unit. For large floor spaces - 100,000 to 200,000 square feet - this translates into energy cost savings of between $1 million and $2 million over 10 years, according to Sunlight Direct.
Researchers in ORNL's Solar Technologies Program will continue to perform beta testing of the units, installed or being installed at various locations around the nation.
"As part of ORNL's Sunlight Inside Initiative, a field-trial demonstration program, we will be gathering energy, cost and reliability data and publishing a report," says Melissa Lapsa, manager of the lab's Solar Technologies Program.